Drink & Dish: Buffalo Chicken Dip {with video!}

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip



Let’s talk for a second about making a video.

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

It’s, um…hard. I naively assumed that I would be great at this, You see, I’m an actor. I have a degree in musical theatre. This is what I teach people to do all day long, right??? Well, as it turns out, it’s not quite that simple. Shocking, right? But it is a whole lot of fun!

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

I believe it was the day that Nicole and I ran 21 miles that we decided to create our own internet cooking show. When we talk about food, we run faster. We spend a lot of time talking about food.

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

I think the hardest part of this process for me was that my big, ridiculous, often over-the-top personality doesn’t always translate to a tiny little camera box. Nicole kept telling me I was shouting because I’m so used to having to project on stage, haha. It’s definitely a learning process, and there are quite a few things I want to work on for the next time (like, oh…actually plugging in our microphone and shooting in the hd format…whoops…), but I am pretty proud of what we put together.

Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

Make sure you go over to Nicole’s page to check out her recipe too!

Buffalo Chicken Dip

yield your entire party

  • 9-11 oz chicken breast, cooked and shredded 
  • 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 oz reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 tsp ranch seasoning
  • 1/3 cup buffalo sauce (or more if you want it spicier)
  • bleu cheese for topping (optional)
  • carrots and celery for dipping

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, ranch seasoning, and buffalo sauce in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until all items are incorporated and dip is heated throughout, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. Serve topped with crumbled bleu cheese, with carrots and celery. Dip can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one week, and reheated or eaten cold (if you’re weird like me ;) ).

Cheesy Broccoli Soup with Roasted Corn

Cheesey Broccoli Soup with Roasted Corn #vegetarian #glutenfree

The weather has been unusually cold and rainy here in Phoenix. Not that I’m complaining. We only get about 5 days a year of this, and so it’s kind of like a treat. I generally like to keep my schedule jam packed, constantly going from one thing to the next, but when the weather gets like this, it’s like one of life’s little reminders to slow down, cuddle up under a blanket with the puppies, and listen to the rainfall.

brocollicheddarsoup-16

Oh, and eat my body weight in rich. creamy, hot soup. I could probably eat soup year round. I love it sososo much, but when it’s 115* outside, it sort of loses it’s luster, if you know what I mean.

brocollicheddarsoup-12

Therefore, after December 25th, when I stop eating cookies for dinner every single night, I usually declare the month of January soup month, and cook pretty much only soup for the entire month. I’m sure my husband loves it, and never gets bored.

brocollicheddarsoup-11

I’m such a creature of habbit. Have I ever told you I eat the same thing for breakfast every.single.day.? Pumpkin, Greek yogurt, chopped apple, chia seeds, spices, and cereal on top. It’s really….weird. But I love it. Steve makes fun of it. I find him rude. Also, when I find a lunch I’m into, I eat that every day as well. Lately, it’s a grilled sandwich with hummus, cheese, mustard, and lots of veggies. It’s delicious.

brocollicheddarsoup-9

So, I’ve been enjoying my month of soup. I had a serious craving for broccoli cheddar soup, and then I went grocery shopping and saw that the ears of corn actually looked good. In January. I decided that was a sign that corn needed to make it’s way into my soup.

brocollicheddarsoup-1

 

This isn’t your typical broccoli cheese soup. The corn makes it thick, and chunky, and it’s more creamy than cheesey, because I didn’t want to add an entire block of cheese. Right about the time it was ready, I got reallll nervous, and told Jason we might just be eating bread for dinner (I made some really delicious biscuits to go with it that I never doubted for a second), but I decided I would take pictures juuuust in case. Then I took a bite, and I couldn’t believe how much I loved it! It was different than what I was expecting with the initial broccoli cheddar feel, but I absolutely loved the rich creaminess with the texture of the broccoli and corn.

 

Cheesey Broccoli Soup with Roasted Corn

yield 6 servings

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 ears sweet corn
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 lb fresh broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • dash hot sauce
  • 4 oz freshly grated reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place corn in a large baking dish. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, and add salt and pepper if desired. Roast for 1 hour until lightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add almond milk and veggie stalk whisking together for 3-5 minutes. 
  3. Add broccoli, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, and continue to cook until broccoli is tender, about 40-50 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat, and pulse with an immersion blender, until desired consistency (I like mine chunky, so I only pulse it through a few times. For a smoother soup, blend for longer, or transfer soup to a blender to blend completely).
  5. Return pot to heat, turn down to low, and add cheddar cheese. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. When corn is finished cooking, scrape kernels off with a knife. Stir in corn and Greek yogurt, and serve. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles {vegan}

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles #vegan

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles #vegan

Before I tell you about these amazing cookies, I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for all of the kind comments on my marathon recap. You guys sure know how to make me cry over, and over, and over again. Of course I do this for me first, but your support really makes it worth all of the pain and challenges so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles #vegan

I made these cookies to compensate for my visually challenged cookies. As soon as they came out of the oven with that perfect crackle on top, I was thrilled that not just a better looking cookie had come out of my oven, but a downright beautiful cookie! Then the pessimist in me decided that surely they were going to taste bad, because that’s how that day was going.

http://arismenu.com/peanut-butter-oatmeal-cookies-with-dark-chocolate-cherries-coconut/

You.Guys. They were so the opposite of bad!!! I bit into one, and was greeted with my most sought after cookie texture–slightly crunchy on the outside, with a soft, gooey, buttery (even though they include NO butter!) texture inside. In my book, that is cookie perfection!

hChai Spiced Snickerdoodles #vegan

When I stopped freaking out about the texture miracle, I started to focus on the flavor of these bad boys, and holy cow, they are delicious! Spicy homemade chai spice blend mixed with sweet sugar cookie flavor creating a sweet and comforting cookie that tastes like it came from your grandma’s old recipes.

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles #vegan

“Okay maybe these are the best cookies you have ever made.” My husband’s cookie heart is so fickle.

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles {vegan}

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Serving Size: 1 cookie

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles {vegan}

Ultra soft vegan & gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies with warm, comforting chai spices--perfect for fall or winter holidays!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • For the coating:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • pinch ground nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together baking blend, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together apple butter,sugar, maple syrup, and almond milk until well combined. Add vanilla, then add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. In a wide, shallow bowl, combine ingredients for the coating. Lightly spray hands with nonstick spray, then roll dough into one inch balls. Roll in the sugar mixture to coat completely, then transfer to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. They may look underdone, but do not over bake. They will set more as they cool. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

Lightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://arismenu.com/chai-spiced-snickerdoodles-vegan/

The Day I Became a Marathoner

pfchangs2013-259

Oh man…you guys, I don’t even know where to start. This was no where near the race I had been dreaming of, but in it’s own way, it was still the perfect race. FYI: This post is longer than long. Grab a mug o’ coffee, and settle in. :) pfchangs2013-282

Let’s back up a bit. Over a month ago, I woke up to a super tight feeling in my hip. It’s something I’ve felt before, and never from running (I think it has to do with sleeping position?), but I’ve never run with that feeling. I woke up to this feeling the day I had an 18 miler scheduled. It hurt for the first several miles, but eventually loosened itself up, and it was fine.

Then a week later, I woke up the morning after a 14 mile run with a horrible pain in my knee that was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I called Coach Susan, freaked out a bit, took a week off running, then came back to run a killer 21 miler that felt absolutely perfect. After that perfect run, I got sick, and didn’t run for an other week until I ran an 11 miler that left my knee back in pain. I took more time off, and tried to run my final “long” 8 mile run, but stopped after 5 because my knee hurt.

I thought that I was okay, that I was not in too much pain, and I was just being cautious. I took a week and a half off running before the marathon. I iced, rolled, stretched, went to PT, and I swore to myself those 10 days off running would cure everything. Then on Saturday morning I ran for 15 minutes with Nicole, and my knee hurt. It hurt while I ran, and it hurt all day afterwards. Regardless, I showed up at the starting line hopeful, and ready to achieve my 4:29:59 goal that I never announced publicly, because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I didn’t reach it.

Nicole and I got to the start ridiculously early, and after over an hour of hanging out, we were on our way to the starting line where I saw Nacho. I screamed when I ran into him, cried a little, cried more during the national anthem, and then we were off. I kept telling Nicole I couldn’t believe we were running a marathon! Almost as soon as we’d taken off, I hear a man call out my name. I turned around and he said “I read your blog!” I about died. I was sosoSO excited! His name is Scott, and he ran Whiskey Row also. He saw my name on my shirt, said hello, and made my day! HI SCOTT!! I hope you had a great race!

Let me tell you, we had such AMAZING support! At mile 1, we saw Nacho, and he told us he’d be waiting for us at mile 9 (I think?), then around mile 3-4 we saw Emily and Lance, and Steve with my mom and Hank. I screamed when I saw my mom because I knew she was coming, but I didn’t know where she was going to be. They were screaming their faces off and taking pictures. I was still so happy here!

pfchangs2013-146

"IT'S MY MOM!!!!!"

“IT’S MY MOM!!!!!”

pfchangs2013-155

All of our long runs, we have been great at starting slow (usually 10:40ish), and gradually working our way down to around 9:30s, averaging around 10 min/miles. For 9 we were perfectly on track, regardless of the fact that my knee started hurting before the mile 1 marker, and that I had woken up with that same tightness in my hip. Our first mile clocked in at 10:30, and we were slowly getting faster, walking through all the water stations, and staying on target.

Mile 9 came in at 10:01, and then we stopped to use the porta potties, and I don’t know if it was the stop or what, but the pain in my knee got bad. Really bad. Like, every step was so painful, and I was starting to limp run. Luckily, we soon ran into Nacho. I was starting to take walking breaks really often, and I told him I was struggling. I tried to convince Nicole to go up ahead, but she insisted we were staying together. As much as I wanted her to go on and get the time I knew she was capable of, I was so relieved that she didn’t leave.

pfchangs2013-187

This is the face of someone you want next to you during a marathon. How can you hate life when your with this freakish cheeriness????

"My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!"

“My name is Nicole, and I am the HAPPIEST RUNNER EVER!”

I have never been in so much pain while running, and I was legitimately scared, and even started to wonder if this race was worth making an injury worse. I decided it was. There is no question that this was not the “smart” decision, but for me, it was the right choice. When Nacho saw how badly I was doing, he started to run with us. In his jeans. He ran with us for miles. Between miles 10-14, I was just in a bad mental place. I was in so much pain, and I was upset about being in so much pain, and I felt an intense amount of guilt for ruining Nicole’s race. She was staying positive, and trying to snap me out of it. At mile 14, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy, and I started crying, but shortly after I finally accepted the fact that I was injured, and I needed to stop waiting for the pain to go away, and focus on running the best I could on that day. pfchangs2013-169

Nacho stopped around mile 15, and told us he would see us on our way back (this was the only part of the course that had an out and back section). At the turn around at mile 16, we saw one of Nicole’s cheering sections, and before we knew it, we were on our way back down Indian School. Then, my stomach started bugging me, and around mile 17, we stopped for the bathroom again. We continued with run/walk/stretch over and over and over.

Just before mile 18, we saw Tim, and when he walked with us for a little while. He is such an inspiration, and he put a lot into perspective for me during this process. It was so nice that he walked with us for a while and encouraged me! He said this was the toughest part of the marathon, and that we were doing great. Soon after, we caught back up to Nacho, and he ran with us even MORE. He refused to let me get down, and kept saying “The Ari I know doesn’t give up”. At mile 19, I saw my dad, Hermano and Cindy again, and I knew that my big cheering section was coming up soon. Nacho continued to run with us up until mile 20.5 where he said goodbye, and said he would see us at the Mill Avenue bridge. I was so amazed, and overwhelmed by his support, and how he was there when I needed him.

pfchangs2013-205

I have no idea when in the race this photo was taken, but I was ready for an other picture.

Just before mile 21, from almost 1/4 mile away, I heard my mother-in-law (I wish there was a cuter term than mother-in-law PS) shout my name. I started pushing with all of my might, and it was almost like a mirage. A HUGE group of friends and family with signs for days shouting “GO ARI AND NICOLE!” I hugged my adorable niece, cried more, and Jason came up beside me, and told me that I was doing great. Steve had told them that I was having a rough time, but they were all great about not asking if I was okay, and just staying positive. Lisa (who is pregnant as can be) and Bethany started running with us and chanting with their signs. It was unbelievable. I felt so incredibly loved, and I was so grateful that I had decided to keep running. I knew quitting wasn’t an option, and mostly because I knew I couldn’t disappoint everyone who had given so much for me to get here.

At this point, exhaustion crept in. I didn’t expect to feel so tired because I had been walking so often, but the pain in my knee had traveled up to my hip and basically my entire left leg had been feeling a mess regardless of stopping at a medic station for ibuprofen, and being handed a mysterious prescription pain pill at mile 19 (don’t try this at home, kids). Every time I tried to pick up my leg, it felt impossible, and all of the sudden it wasn’t just hard because my knee hurt, it was just hard. From this point on, Steve stayed right by us on his bike. He had been on and off throughout the course. Originally I told him I only wanted to see him a few times so I could focus on the race, but when I started struggling, he showed up more and more often, and I was so grateful.

At this point he stayed by our side offering encouraging words. He happened to be wearing a shirt that made him look like he was a medic and someone thanked him for his service! Cracked me up. We saw Nicole’s cheering squad at Mile 23, then Lisa and some other BTB members at mile 25, and Jaime right after. Nacho was waiting at the bridge, just like he promised, and he ran the rest of the way with us, even through the finish line. If you ask me, he deserved it. After 26 miles of pain, we had finally made it. Nicole and I grabbed hands, and ran through the finish line holding hands, just as we had set out to do.

pfchangs2013-259

At first, it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I found Coach Susan that it started to sink in, and I started sobbing. I told her that my knee had hurt since the beginning and she hugged me, told me that I was a marathoner, and said “You ran your first marathon in 5 hours with an injury? That makes you a fucking badass. Excuse my language.” Then she told me she loved me, and that she really felt like it was her daughter who was out there. At some point in New York, we decided that I could be her daughter, so now she’s my running mom ;)

pfchangs2013-266

There is so much about this experience that I still can’t even explain. Nicole stuck with me as we watched all of our time goals slip out of sight. Even at the end when the 5 hour pacer got out of our sight (that one hurt), and we watched our last time goal go by the wayside, she never left my side. After five hours and four minutes of running through pain, we became marathoners together, and I couldn’t have done it without her. It may not have been the race I dreamed of, but I experienced love and generosity that blew me away. I discovered a determination and dedication I didn’t know I possessed, and I finished.

I will say this: No matter how much pain I was in or how short my spurts of running were, I never gave up and stopped trying. Even when I could only run for a minute at a time before the pain got bad, I would run for a minute. I am still ridiculously happy, and proud to be a marathoner. I am proud that I pushed through something that would make so many people stop, and I’m proud that after 7 months, it finally became possible. Regardless of the physical pain, I managed to have one of the happiest days of my life, and I feel so undeserving of all of the kindness I have received. People told me that I am an inspiration, but it is the love and kindness I received from the people I love that I really find inspiring. Damn, I am lucky.

Thank you for all the support, and for all the love and comments along this journey. It has been incredible, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

This was the last thing I made in 2012, and let me tell you, it was a heck of a way to end out the year!Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

 

You see, our New Years Eve was realllll exciting. I had stopped drinking for taper (or I had said I was, then had a glass of champagne, then went to a wedding 2 weeks later, and well, ya know…), and we were all exhausted from the holidays. We went to a friends house, watched Looper (Matt’s choice) which I didn’t like at all, then watched Burlesque (my choice) which never gets old if you ask me.

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

 

I’m not sure which part of my evening was better: these cookies, or Cher’s You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me. It’s a really tough choice, so I will say the best part of my evening was eating my weight in these cookies while watching Cher sing her heart out during her 11 o clock number.

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

 

Fresh out of ideas from my overkill holiday baking, I hit up my girl Sally’s site for some inspiration. I knew I was craving something with chocolate and peanut butter, and I had some peanut butter chips I’d been wanting to use, so I looked for a base chocolate cookie recipe.

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

 

I wasn’t surprised that Sally’s cookies delivered (her recipes are amaaaaazing), but I was pretty blown away by just how amazing these cookies were! They had the perfect flakey brownie top, and the middle was rich and gooey like a perfect batch of brownies, but in my favorite baked good. Can you tell cookies are my favorite thing to make? I think my recipe page speaks for itself. ;)

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

 

The peanut butter chips add the perfect touch, and we all know that chocolate and peanut butter is the best combination since pb&j. Steve also said more than a few times that these were “the best cookies I’ve ever made”, and since we all know how many cookies I make, you know these are a must try!

 

Peanut Butter Chip Brownie Cookies

yield 2 dozen 

adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 1/2 cup gluten-free baking blend (or white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tbsp apple butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together baking blend, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together chocolate, egg, vanilla, apple butter, and sugars until well combined, then slowly beat in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in peanut butter chips. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Use a small cookie scoop to transfer dough to prepared cookie sheets. Use a small piece of parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray to lightly press down dough balls to flatten slightly (they don’t spread when they bake, so if you don’t flatten them, you will end up with round cookies).
  4. Bake for 10 minutes until just set. Let stand for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for one week (these cookies stay pretty darn soft and gooey for days!).

It’s Marathon Day

After 7 months, 2 training cycles, $5,000 in fundraising, and countless freak outs, today I will become a marathoner. Today I will achieve what I told so many people I could never do. I can’t wait to soak up every second of this once in a lifetime experience, and while I am out kicking those 26.2 miles in the ass, I wanted to say thank you. I truly believe that if I had never started this blog, I wouldn’t be running this marathon.

Starting Ari’s Menu gave me the courage, and the motivation to run my first half marathon, which sparked the want need to run my first marathon. Throughout my journey, you guys have given me words of wisdom, celebrated my accomplishments, supported me when I doubted myself, and been there through the hard times. I couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for making me better, for reading about my journey, and for all of the comments, love, and support.

The next time I post, I will be a marathoner!

PS: Make sure to head over to Nicole’s blog and send her some love–it’s her first marathon too, and she is my rock!

Elvis Smoothie

Elvis Smoothie

Okay, I promise I’m not crazy. Elvis did it. He put bacon on his peanut butter sandwich. If Elvis can put bacon on his sandwich, I can put bacon on my smoothie.

Elvis Smoothie

This smoothie is really quite simple. Imagine the components of an Elvis sandwich being blended together to make the perfect breakfast drink. Peanut butter, banana, honey, bacon—what can I say? It just works. The sweet and salty flavors balance out perfectly, and by making it into a smoothie, it’s so easy to grab it, and go on your way out the door. It literally takes 5 minutes, so if you’re one of those people who tries to say you don’t have time for breakfast (I don’t get it…I ALWAYS have time for food!), then I say to you: You have 5 minutes, especially when your breakfast tastes like dessert.

 Elvis Smoothie

This smoothie may sound indulgent, but it is actually packed with fiber and protein, and filled with nutrients that provide a balanced breakfast that only tastes like dessert.

Elvis Smoothie Nutrition

 

To help keep the smoothie thick and delicious and the calories low, I used Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Vanilla. The same smoothie using skim milk would come in at 372 calories—a pretty huge jump! Just the one change of using Silk instead (it is the lowest calorie almondmilk on the market!) saves 50 calories!

 

Elvis Smoothie

Yield 1 huge smoothie

  • 1 medium banana, frozen
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Vanilla
  • 1 tbs honey peanut butter (regular peanut butter is fine too)
  • 4 oz nonfat honey Greek yogurt
  • 1 slice center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • extra peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place banana, ice, Silk, peanut butter and yogurt in a blender, and blend until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. If desired roll the top of your glass in graham cracker crumbs and drizzle some extra melted peanut butter on the inside.
  3. Top with crumbled bacon.

This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Silk and FitFluential, LLC. All opinions are my own. To learn more about Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened on Facebook and Twitter.

Marathon Inspiration

inspiration #fitfluential

Happy 3 Days til Marathon Day of Marathon Week. Yes, every day this week is it’s own holiday. So let’s get with the festivities, and get ourselves all amped up, and inspired to run further than most people like to drive, shall we?

What inspires you?

inspiration #fitfluential

I took this picture in DC last weekend. It has no relevance, but I thought it was a pretty backdrop to put quotes on, and that sunshine is symbolic, or something…

When times get tough, as they always do, there are two three things I always tell myself.

1. If it was easy everyone would do it. I am a competitive person. The fact that I have the ability, the drive, and the motivation to push myself in a way that such a small percentage of the population will achieve gives me pride, and fuels the my fire and drive to push through the pain.

2. I can do anything. This is something Ari 2 years ago would have never believed that statement, but it is probably the biggest thing running has taught me. I may not be able to do everything today (BUT WHYYYYY NOT?????), but if I put my mind to it, there is nothing I can’t do. I can do anything.

3. Everything is easier with ruffles on your ass. It’s the truth, and it makes me laugh when I want to cry because my legs hurt.

I am usually able to be my own inspiration in the moment, but I find so much inspiration in reading other people’s stories and journeys. In fact, it was reading the first marathon recap of one specific blogger that inspired me to run a marathon in the first place. I’ve spent the week reading lots of race recaps, especially first marathon recaps, RnR AZ recaps, and pretty much anything written by runners who share my…um, emotionalness. I wanted to share with you guys a few of my favorites in hope that you will find them as motivating and inspiring as I have.

First time marathons:

Ali’s Hamptons Marathon Recap. No matter how many times I read this (and there have been a kind of embarrassing amount), I still cry every single time, and I think “That is what I want my marathon to be.”

Jaime’s Goofy Challenge Recap. The first Team Chances get together, I walked in incredibly nervous and not knowing a soul. I sat down at Jaime’s table, and the rest is history. We clicked right away, and she quickly became one of my closest teammates in this process. Four days ago she not only ran her first marathon, but she ran it the day after running a half marathon in 80* temperatures with Florida humidity. She powered through the toughest first marathon circumstances I can imagine, and powered through! It doesn’t get much more inspirational than this.

Tina’s RnR AZ Marathon Recap. Carrots N Cake was the first blog I started reading. It was the blog that made me want to blog, and RnR AZ was her first marathon. I had read the recap once before, but I went back and read it this week, and it’s definitely a good one.

Theodora’s Chicago Marathon Recap. There’s something about going from being significantly overweight to running a marathon that I feel like you can’t quite understand unless you’ve been there. I can’t quite describe the feeling (yet), but Theodora does a pretty amazing job, and of all of the recaps I’ve read, this one probably resonates the most.

Tina’s Cleveland Marathon Recap. You never really know what can happen on race day, and sometimes things are harder than you ever expected due to circumstances that are beyond your control, but Tina pushed through all of it, and her recap really shows how a race that seems frustrating in the moment is so rewarding in the end. I also love what she says at the very end.

Jamie’s Wineglass Marathon Recap. I know it didn’t end the way she wanted it to, but this is an other good one that reminds me to not give up no matter what, and even in the toughest circumstances, the most important thing is just to finish.

Other inspiring marathon recaps:

Emily’s Eugene Marathon Recap. One day, I would just like to run a 5k at her marathon pace.

Ali’s Manchester City Marathon Recap. How is even her second marathon so freaking inspirational?!

Theodora’s NYCM Recap. I like this one even better than her first one. An other recap that makes me cry every single time.

Sarah’s Eugene Marathon Recap. Let’s just say between this and Emily’s, Eugene is on my race bucket list.

Laura’s Houston Marathon Recap. I love this girl, and she killed it last weekend with some crazy weather conditions!

Other good racing reads:

When my running bestie broke 2 hours in her half marathon.

Caitlin’s first post pardum triathlon.

My girl Stacey’s 19 minute half marathon PR.

Clarinda’s Really Big Half Marathon recap.

 

Have a first marathon recap, or an inspiring race recap you want to share? Link it up! Keep it coming! I’ve been reading these and crying for 2 days, and I’m no where near ready to stop!

 

Black & White Cookies {vegan}

Black & White Cookies #vegan

Look to the cookie.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

I know I’ve posted that video before. It’s from one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. I’m also pretty sure I’ve mentioned my Seinfeld addiction. I spent the weekend with my NY Husband, and when I got to his house Thursday evening, he had a Seinfeld all cued up and ready for us to watch before bed. That’s love.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

 

Black and white cookies are the epitome of nostalgia for me. You know how you have certain foods that remind you of certain relationships in your life? Like the way my dad is still always buying me white chocolate kit kat bars because they were my favorite when I was a kid. They still remind me of my dad. The first time I ever had a black and white cookie was when my friend Lisa and I split one at Chompies.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

 

It was pretty much as cliche as you can get–2 Jewish girls at the Jewish deli eating black and white cookies. What can I say? It’s in my blood.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

 

It was love at first bite. The soft, cake-like cookie was absolute perfection. It was so huge we had to eat it with a fork! Ever since, any time I’m in NYC, all I want is a black and white cookie. I had my heart set on one when I was there in November, but it never happened, and so I decided I was going to need to make it happen in Arizona.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

I made these cookies with the intent to wait until either Lisa’s baby shower (in March) or when she delivers her baby girl (in May-ish), but I just couldn’t wait.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

 

The homemade version of this deli classic was everything I dreamed it would be! Soft, fluffy, cake-like cookies topped equally with light, white powdered sugar glaze and its rich, chocolatey counter part. It truly is the ultimate flavor combination.

Black & White Cookies #vegan

 

So in honor of Lisa, Mac, and my latest (9 hour) trip to the city, make yourself some black & whites.

Black & White Cookies

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

yield approx. 3 ½ dozen

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat cake flour
  • 1 and 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp hot water
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and applesauce and extracts until combined.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cornstarch and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients into applesauce mixture, followed by milk, then remaining dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  4. Use a small cookie scoop to drop the dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 15-18 minutes until edges begin to brown. Cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, place powdered sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly, mix in hot water 1 tbsp at a time, until icing has reached your desired consistency. Be careful—a little bit of liquid goes a long way with powdered sugar!
  6. Spread icing on half of the flat (bottom) side of each cookie. Once all cookie halves have been half frosted, add melted chocolate to remaining frosting. To make the “black” darker, you may add in 1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa if desired (I did). If icing appears too thick, add an other tbsp. of hot water.
  7. Frost the remaining half of the cookies with the chocolate frosting. If icing becomes dry, just whisk in a little bit of extra water—it can dry up pretty quickly, and I had to do this a few times.
  8. Let frosting set and serve immediately or store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut

fPeanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut #vegan #glutenfree

Friends, these are not the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut #vegan #glutenfree

 

In fact, when I made them for our first Ragnar team meeting, I almost didn’t serve them because I didn’t love the look, but as I kept reaching over, and over, and over for the pieces of the uglier ones I planned to throw away, I realized they were so delicious, I just had to save them, and post about them, pretty or not.

fPeanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut #vegan #glutenfree

 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but this February I will be running Ragnar Del Sol with 11 other amazing ladies! The line up includes Nicole, Karla, Melissa, Megan, Tara, Stacey, Jaime, Bety, Jennifer, Jenn, and Kelli. I am sosoSO excited! We had our first official meeting a couple of weeks ago, and did a potluck at my house, so of course I called dibs on making dessert. ;) Tara and Jaime don’t eat gluten or dairy, so I wanted to make something that everyone would be able to enjoy.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut #vegan #glutenfree

 

So I did end up serving my visually-challenged cookies, and I’m even sharing them with you, because I love them. They are so chewy, and packed with flavor. In true Ari style, there is definitely a lot going on, which leads to my new longest title ever (I think?), but it all comes together perfectly in a way that rather than tasting each component, you taste the combination as a whole.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut #vegan #glutenfree

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate, Cherries & Coconut

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp apple butter
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • dash salt
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 cups raw oats (use gluten-free if you care about that sort of thing)
  • 6 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks (I used 2 bars—a coconut dark chocolate and a sea salt dark chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup sweet cherries, pitted and chopped

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil, apple butter, peanut butter, and sugars until smooth. Add almond milk, vanilla, baking soda, cornstarch, salt, and coconut, and beat until well combined. Fold in oats, followed by chocolate, cherries and coconut.
  3. Use a small cookie scoop to drop batter onto prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart (these spread quite a bit).
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on baking sheet before transferring to serve.

**Notes: These cookies are very sticky. I don’t recommend sealing them for storage. You also don’t want to crowd them. They work best unstacked in a large Tupperware with the lid resting on top, but unsealed.

 

 

RnR AZ One Week To Go

FYI: This post has nothing to do with any work outs of training runs I’ve done over the last week. It’s time for me to focus on the mental aspects of the marathon, so here’s a peak into my brain. It’s a hot mess in there, but you get used to it ;)

Can anyone ever confidently say “Oh, I’m TOTALLY ready to run my first marathon!” I’m pretty sure that feeling doesn’t exist, and I’m 100% certain that with how neurotic I am, I would never utter words anywhere close to that. I will say, however, that I’m not worried about whether I “trained well enough” or “did enough”. I am as ready as I could possibly get at this point in my life, and regardless of what happens on January 20th, I have so much to be proud of.

On the flight to NYC, I began a post about things I learned while training for a marathon. I planned to finish it when I got in, and have it go up the day of the race. Well, let’s just say that emotional Post Race Cancelation Ari stepped in, and it’s not even in the data base anymore. If I had one regret over my training cycle, it’s that after the New York Marathon was canceled, a little bit of my spark faded. I didn’t really lose motivation or drive, but the awe and appreciation for my body that came with conquering these new distances faded as I became more focused on the idea that this extended training cycle needed to make me faster, and less focused on the heart of the matter—why I signed up for a marathon in the first place.

I haven’t gone into too much detail on here, although I have gently alluded to the fact that when I first started running, I was in a very bad place with food and body image. I was trapped in a negative cycle, and I honestly didn’t see a light at the end, and I could not bring myself to believe I would be able to lead a different kind of life. Then I discovered running, and I rekindled my passion to be better—the reason I began my healthy living journey in the first place. I began to focus my success on my physical accomplishments, and I found what I had been searching for: freedom.

I am not running this marathon to break any records, and despite the fact that I am document every last second of my training on pretty much every facet of social media, I’m not doing this so you will think I’ve done something special. I am running this marathon to celebrate a point in my journey. A journey that began when I was 9 years old and realized my body was “different”. I originally thought that deciding to tackle a marathon would be the celebration of my weight loss journey, but what I’ve realized is that it is the celebration of something so much bigger.

So no…I’m not “totally ready to run my first marathon”, but I am ready to have a once in a lifetime experience with one of my best friends. And I’m even starting to believe that it might actually happen this time. I haven’t asked Steve if they’re going to cancel it in a solid 72 hours which I would definitely consider progress. ;)

And because this post obviously isn’t long and wordy enough, here are some things I’ve learned while training for my first marathon:

  • I’m stronger than I think.
  • Dinosaurs are hilarious.
  • It’s not easy to find people that you actually enjoy being alone with for 4 hours every week, so if you find someone who clicks perfectly, enjoy it and appreciate the hell out of them (I DO!).
    "Nicole, why is their Christmas so scary???""Don't worry Ari, I'll protect you! Super Nicole to the rescue!"
    21miles-2
  • I am an individual, and my training plan will probably never fit 100% perfectly into my life, and the challenges that each cycle will bring. All I can do is my best, and it won’t kill me to choose drinking wine with friends once in my life over “feeling great” on my stupid recovery run. I was definitely better about this the second time, but the first time around, I had absolutely no social life, and I don’t think my husband/family/friends appreciated me kicking them to the curb. It’s not the nicest way to treat the people I love. I swear there is a way to find balance, but it’s different for everyone, and that’s okay.
  • Comparing myself to others never ends well. And it’s stupid, and kind of rude. It’s best to avoid it at all costs.
  • Coach Susan knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Also, I think my people-pleasing personality is hooked on this whole having a coach business. I had no idea what I was missing, but now I don’t want to go back (and let’s be honest….I probably won’t. Coach Susan > Lululemon running skirts).

    Hot Chocolate2

    Although running skirts are pretty awesome…

  • I enjoy running without music. This was the surprise of the century, but I didn’t use my ipod for a single long run the second time around. I do plan on having it on backup for the marathon if I need some extra motivation though.
  • Running should be fun. Last time I checked, this was not my career, and I wasn’t planning to win PF Chang’s. I know, I know, you’re shocked by this revelation. Fun doesn’t mean easy. In my sick and twisted world, “fun” means giving everything I have inside me, laughing with Nicole, enjoying the cheers, and celebrating the success of running a marathon no matter what happens. I plan to have so much freaking fun.
"I'VE GOT THIS!!!!!"

This is what fun running looks like.

Alright friends, now is the time—give me pre-race words of wisdom! Tell me your motivational mantras, what you’ve learned (not necessarily from running, but it could be what you learned in math class), and any other gems of positivity you want to share! 

 

**PS: I am putting together a post this week linking up first time marathon recaps, RnR AZ recaps, and any really inspirational running recaps I come across, because I plan on doing a lot of reading to get motivated. If you have a post, email me the link to ari@arismenu.com if you’d like to be included!**

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

SOMEONE’S GETTING MARRIED TODAY!!!!!

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Noooo, not me silly gooses. I already have a real husband and a New York Husband, and that is plenty. Plus, you know I said some vows to my Kitchenaid…

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

 

Ummm, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s totally normal to have two human husbands and one appliance. And everyone says vows to their favorite kitchen appliance, okay?

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

This is one of the most pointless food pictures I’ve ever taken. It shows you nothing about the actual cake, but for some reason I just love it.

Today my beautiful, wonderful friend Jen is getting hitched! I flew in to NYC late last evening, and today I’m road tripping down to Virginia for the wedding. It’s a long story, but the extra states saved me a night’s hotel fair, and earned me some extra time with NY Husband, so it’s well worth the extra travel. Jen is one of the most giving, loving people I have ever met, and I can’t wait to be a part of her special day!

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

 

I figured since today was extra special, I would do something I never do and post a CAKE! I very rarely make real cakes. I’m much more of a cupcake girl. I like the built in portion control of a cupcake, because lord knows I will break out a fork, and eat the entire cake if left to my own devices…

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

 

One time, I made Steve a red velvet cake for his birthday. Of course, this was before I knew how to cook, like at all, so it came from a box. I forgot the eggs (which is pretty typical for me), and the cake, although delicious, was a crumbly mess. This was also pre-weight-loss for both of us. We each ended up grabbing a fork, and almost completely devouring this double layer cake. It was really cute, I swear.

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

I can’t promise you that you will not have the same problem here, because this cake is GOOD. The edges browned and got slightly crispy while the middle stayed perfectly gooey and soft. The cake isn’t overly sweet to balance out the rich, chocolatey icing, and the white chocolate chips throughout create a perfect flavor balance. In basic terms, it tastes kinda like a HUGE, soft peanut butter cookie with white chocolate chips, that’s covered in rich chocolate cream cheese frosting. Except, it’s a cake. A cake I can get behind. Now, please pass me the fork.

 

Sunflower Butter White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

yield approx 16 servings

  • 1/4 cup apple butter
  • 2/3 cup sunflower butter (or any nut butter you have on hand will work)
  • 1  cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar,packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 12 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 9-10″ springform pan with parchment paper. Spray edges and parchment paper well with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl. whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), beat together apple butter, sunflower butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Beat in egg. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips.
  4. Transfer dough to prepared pan, and use a piece of sprayed parchment paper to gently press into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until lightly golden. The center should be set, but soft. Cool completely in pan.
  6. Once cooled, run a butter knife along the inside to release any areas that are stuck, then open springform, and transfer cake to your preferred frosting area.
  7. To make frosting, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add vanilla extract. Add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low speed, followed by cocoa powder. Increase to medium speed and add melted chocolate. Beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl often. Slowly,  add almond milk 1 tbsp at a time until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.
  8. Frost cooled cookie cake completely, and serve.